Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

As a special treat for the Star Wars fans checking out Rogue One in IMAX, Christopher Nolan is offering a true sneak preview of his next film, which recreates an equally perilous (but much more historically accurate) military operation.

The prologue for Dunkirk was officially announced just hours before early Thursday night screenings of Rogue One and runs about five minutes. If you want to check out the prologue for yourself, there’s a list of participating theaters over at the official Dunkirk website. But if you can’t make it out, here’s a quick rundown of what audiences saw.


This one should come as a surprise to literally no one familiar with Nolan’s output over the last decade, but the first thing you notice about Dunkirk is the scale — both in terms of the scope of the images and the IMAX screen.

Filming both in 65mm and the full-screen IMAX ratio, Nolan is taking full advantage of the larger formats to portray the vastness of the beaches at Dunkirk. The sands stretch out horizontally in front of a seemingly infinite ocean. (And Hoyte Van Hoytema’s gorgeous cinematography is unmistakable.)


The prologue cycles through three points of view during its runtime. The triptych format shows the full scope of the effort to remove 400,000 Allied troops from the beach.

The camera starts on Fionn Whitehead, a relatively unknown young actor, as he and a fellow Army private navigate the crowded sands. Between them, they carry a wounded soldier.

We then move to the skies above them, where Tom Hardy is one of two British pilots trying to out-maneuver and ultimately bring down an attacking German plane.

Finally, there’s Mark Rylance, as a father of two boys, preparing his boat to head to Dunkirk to help with the evacuation effort.


Even with a short runtime, the segment is wall-to-wall tension.

If there was music during the footage, it’s difficult to remember. What will stick in your head is the ever-quickening tick of a clock, placed prominently on the soundtrack. The sound design is precise and harrowing. The metallic ka-choong of airplane artillery rattles the theater.

The ticking clock is also built into the story. We watch as Whitehead’s character is told he has two minutes to get his wounded soldier to the boat, only to have to cross a wood plank with the stretcher because the pier has been bombed.

Even in short preview, it’s clear just how tense an experience this is going to be come July 21.

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